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Dancers by the dozen set to celebrate Sheringham festival’s 25th anniversary with world record Morris attempt

PUBLISHED: 19:02 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 19:05 08 May 2018

Potty Morris and Folk Festival founders Tony Chadwick (left) and Clive Rayment. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Potty Morris and Folk Festival founders Tony Chadwick (left) and Clive Rayment. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

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One of the region’s most popular dance and folk festivals will celebrate its 25th anniversary in a few weeks time, with an attempt at breaking the record for the largest Morris dance in the world.

Sutton Masque Morris dancers entertain the crowds at Sheringham's Potty Morris and Folk Festival. Picture: KAREN BETHELLSutton Masque Morris dancers entertain the crowds at Sheringham's Potty Morris and Folk Festival. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The Potty Folk and Morris Festival, which runs at Sheringham on July 7 and 8, draws crowds in their thousands and regularly attracts up to 40 dance sides from all over the country and abroad.

This year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever, featuring hundreds of dancers who, on the opening day, will assemble on Lifeboat Plain for a mass dance aimed at topping the 144-participant world record set in Preston, Lancashire in 2015.

Dancers entertain the crowds at Sheringham's popular Potty Morris and Folk Festival. Picture: KAREN BETHELLDancers entertain the crowds at Sheringham's popular Potty Morris and Folk Festival. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

While it is now one of the main events in the UK Morris dancing calendar, the festival started on a much smaller scale – as an idea dreamed up in 1986 by a group of friends for an entry into Sheringham’s annual carnival.

Buoyed by the popularity of their appearance, the group decided to form a Morris dancing side, which they christened the Lobster Potties in honour of their regular meeting place, the Lobster pub.

Sheringham's Lobster Potty dance side performing at a previous year's Potty Morris Dancing Festival. Photo: Karen BethellSheringham's Lobster Potty dance side performing at a previous year's Potty Morris Dancing Festival. Photo: Karen Bethell

They went on to perform at events all over the area and, after a visit to Rochester Sweep Festival, came up with the idea of touring north Norfolk with three other Morris sides.

The Potties set off around the area again the following year and, keen to mirror the success of the Rochester event, in 1993 decided to invite other sides to Sheringham for a two-day festival featuring dancing and folk music at town venues.

Dancers at one of the early Potty Morris and Folk Festivals. Photo: SAM ROBBINSDancers at one of the early Potty Morris and Folk Festivals. Photo: SAM ROBBINS

Attracting just a handful of sides in its first year, the event has since grown beyond all expectations and although the Sheringham side disbanded in 2013, a handful of founder members are still heavily involved, included retired Sheringham Primary School teacher Hillary Rayment and her husband Clive, who is now festival chairman.

Mr Rayment, who was the Lobster Potties’ dance teacher and one of the group’s first squires, said: “The Potty Festival has brought thousands of people into the town to watch hundreds of Morris dancers perform each year, not only providing enjoyment but also boosting the local economy, so we really wanted to celebrate this special occasion.”

Town Crier Tony Nelson leads the dancers down Church Street at one of the first Potty Morris Festivals.
Photo: SAM ROBBINSTown Crier Tony Nelson leads the dancers down Church Street at one of the first Potty Morris Festivals. Photo: SAM ROBBINS

A group of former Lobster Potties are organising a reunion, and are appealing for past members to don their old dance kit and join them on Lifeboat Plain on July 7 at 7pm for an evening of hot food and dance to help celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary.

The Lobster Potties dancing on Lifeboat Plain at a previous festival.The Lobster Potties dancing on Lifeboat Plain at a previous festival.

Hillary Rayment, who joined the group in 1993, said the Potties had contributed to many Sheringham events, ranging from the carnival, to the Christmas lights switch-on.

“The numbers of dancers over the years reached nearly 100 and part of being a member was to enjoy socialising, so it was quite sad when the Potties disbanded, she added.

The Potties morris team dancing at the festival in 2005. Photo: NICK BUTCHERThe Potties morris team dancing at the festival in 2005. Photo: NICK BUTCHER

“We therefore thought it would be fun to get together to relive old times and celebrate the festival’s anniversary.”

Anyone interested in attending the reunion can email Mrs Rayment at hillaryrayment@gmail.com or phone 07825 834356. For more information about the Potty Morris and Folk Festival, visit: www.pottyfestival.com

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